Coming off week one, the USC Trojans provided some answers and more questions following their narrow win over the Fresno State Bulldogs. Moving forward the Trojans will now welcome a tough opponent in the No. 23 Stanford Cardinal. Stanford is coming off a 17-7 victory over Northwestern. Both teams are opening conference play against each other, much like the past few seasons. What new story will be written in this season’s meeting?
USC is set to begin life without sophomore quarterback JT Daniels. After suffering a torn ACL and meniscus in last week’s win over Fresno State, Daniels will miss the remainder of the 2019 season. The Trojans now turn to true freshman Kedon Slovis to take over at quarterback. The former 3 star was 6-8 for 57 yards and an interception trying to find Michael Pittman Jr on a long ball. Graham Harrell’s air raid offense had some signs of promise the first two drives before going stagnant for the remainder of the first half. USC managed to run the ball 71 percent of the time during the second half as Slovis came into the game. Running back Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai had outstanding games against the Bulldogs. Malepeai ran for 134 yards and a touchdown off 23 carries while Carr had 6 carries for 56 yards and 6 receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown. Fans are more encouraged by Carr’s burst of speed returning by making defenders miss left and right. USC will need the run game once again against Stanford’s defensive line. Last week the Cardinal held Northwestern to 93 yards rushing.
The passing game had it’s moments with Slovis in the game. The true freshman completed a 41 yard strike to Tyler Vaughns and went 6-8 through the air, however he also threw an interception trying to look for Michael Pittman Jr. on a long ball. The wide receivers were also up and down against Fresno State. They made good plays, but they also had their share of drops and turnovers. Vaughns was a big part of the game both negatively and positively. He managed to haul in 11 receptions for 150 yards, but he also had his share of key drops and lost a fumble early in the third quarter. USC managed to move the ball, but had hard times finishing drives. Harrell mentioned that the offense will clean up their mistakes and finish drives. They’ll have to fix the mistakes and get Solivs ready for a marquee game against Stanford. The Cardinal secondary gave up 117 yards through the air and had two interceptions against a Northwestern team who’s offense isn’t as prolific or pass happy as the Trojans.
The Trojan defense showed their youth and inexperience against a Fresno State offense that only brought back two starters. USC gave up 462 yards against Fresno State. The defensive line looked good by stuffing the interior line, however the Bulldogs gained most of their yards by going sideline to sideline on the Trojans. The defense also had issues with Jorge Reyna as he extended plays by eluding sacks and extending drives. The Trojans secondary had a solid night, however they unit gave up four plays that was 20 yards or more as well as 256 yards through the air. There were plenty of positives for the USC defense. Freshman defensive end Drake Jackson made his presence known last week. He gave the Fresno State backfield fits and deflected two passes at the line. The defense also forced 3 turnovers which included two fumbles and an Isaiah Pola-Mao interception in the end zone to seal the victory for the Trojans.
USC will have some issues to fix heading into this weekend’s match up with Stanford. The Cardinal didn’t revel too much against Northwestern, however they also come into the game with a bulk of injuries to some key players. All-American tackle Walker Little is out six weeks with a leg injury while staring quarterback K.J. Costello is day to day with a head injury. If Costello is a no go for Saturday then Stanford will throw in redshirt sophomore Davis Mills. Mills replaced Costello following his injury and went 7-10 for 81 yards. He led a clock killing drive to seal the victory for the Cardinal, but also fumbled twice while he was in the game. The key x-factor will be the receivers against USC’s young secondary.
-This will be the 6th season USC and Stanford have opened Pac-12 conference play on their respective schedules.
-Stanford has won 6 of the last 10 meetings against USC. The Cardinal defeated the Trojans 17-3 last season in Palo Alto.
-Stanford’s last victory over USC in the L.A. Coliseum was 2015.
-USC is currently a -2.5 favorite over Stanford. The Trojans failed to cover the spread against Fresno State last Saturday.